As of this writing (Jan 2007) area rugs have gained significant market share over the past decade. As more consumers remove carpeting in favor of hard surfaces such as wood, ceramic tile, laminates, and stone, rug ownership in the US has skyrocketed. Ken Snow, President of The Original Hagopian, a flooring and rug retailer and cleaning company in Michigan says: “We sell and maintain carpet, wood, laminate flooring, and area rugs. We’ve noticed a proportional increase in rug sales and a general decline in wall-to-wall carpet sales over the past decade.” Snow continues: “Consumers love the beauty and resilience of hard floors, but still want aesthetic contrast in color and texture as well as a bit of warmth and softness under their feet. Because of these needs, area rugs are the perfect companion to hard flooring surfaces.”
With more rugs in homes and businesses, cleaning and maintaining them has become a growing concern amongst consumers. Before delving into proper care, it’s important to identify the basic construction of the rug. There are two main categories of rugs: Synthetic and Natural. There are also rugs which are created with both synthetic and natural materials and these are referred to as “Blends”. Cleaning and caring for synthetic rugs is very similar to cleaning and caring for installed carpet, so for purposes of this Consumer’s Guide to Oriental Rug Care we’ll stick with Oriental-style rugs constructed of natural materials.
When discussing synthetic and natural rugs, it’s important to understand that the face fibers (the “up” side of the rug) or foundation/backing may be synthetic, natural, or both. For example, a “Wool Rug” usually describes the face fibers; however the backing may be synthetic or natural. Both the backing and face fibers are of equal concern to the Oriental Rug cleaner. It’s safer to clean any rug with the cleaning solution and method designed for the most sensitive part of the rug. Generally speaking, synthetic materials aren’t as sensitive as natural materials. Therefore in the “Wool Rug” example above, even if the rug has a synthetic backing, it’s safer to treat the entire rug as a wool rug. More about cleaning solutions and methods below.
Wool is the most popular naturally-constructed material found in the face fibers of Oriental style rugs. Other natural rug face fiber materials consist of cotton, silk, grass (sisal, jute), animal skins, and even obscure materials including leather and paper. If you are the owner of an animal skin, silk, grass, leather, or paper rug, I highly suggest you send your rug to a qualified Oriental Rug Cleaning company for proper cleaning. These rugs are extremely difficult to clean by consumers and permanent damage will occur if cleaned improperly.
Dry Soil Removal
A high quality Oriental rug should last a lifetime and the best way to help it last a lifetime is by vacuuming often. How often depends on usage. Generally speaking once a week is often enough, however if pets walk on the rug or the rug receives a high amount of foot traffic, vacuuming once or twice a day may be required. Dense Oriental rugs have a tendency to hide micro-soiling and sand that builds up in the foundation. Over time these fine dry soils will prematurely wear the rug.
Lesser quality rugs, especially some hand-tufted inexpensive rugs, (usually made in China, Pakistan and India) may shed face fibers quite a bit during vacuuming. This is normal for this type of rug. Unfortunately these inexpensive Oriental rugs will probably not last a lifetime unless not walked on.
Fringe Care Fur rug
If your rug has fringe, please do NOT use a vacuum with a beater bar attached to it. Instead either gently brush the fringe with a brush designed for fringe, or use an attachment on your vacuum without a beater bar to remove dry soil from fringe. As the owner of a rug cleaning company with well over 10,000 rug cleanings successfully completed, the number one complaint we see from consumers is premature fringe wear caused by the consumer vacuuming the fringe with a beater bar.
Spot and Spill Cleanup
Inevitably there will come a time that you spill something on your Oriental rug or notice a spot from something that was tracked in on it. It’s best to immediately blot or scoop up the excess spot or spill, if possible. I recommend using a dry WHITE cotton terry towel or white paper towels to remove the majority of the spot or spill. If you choose a towel that is not white, there is a strong possibility the color of the towel will transfer to the rug.
Before using ANY spot cleaner on a rug (including merely water), it’s best to test in a small and inconspicuous area. Unfortunately there may not be an inconspicuous area to test, especially on a smaller rug. If this is the case test it near the edge of the rug since it’s usually less noticeable than the center if the test reveals color loss or texture change. If you notice a color change, bleeding, or texture change, STOP and call a professional qualified rug cleaning company for assistance.
After blotting and testing according to the instructions above, first attempt to remove any remaining spot with tap water. Do not soak the rug. Simply dampen a white terry towel or paper towel with water and blot, never rub. If you don’t notice any improvement, the safest solution to use as a general spot cleaner is to mix 32 oz of tap water and 1 teaspoon of liquid Dawn or Ivory hand dishwashing soap. Do NOT use automatic dishwasher soap or laundry detergents as many of these products contain optical brighteners or harsh chemicals that may ruin the rug.